Deciding whether to purchase a pressure cooker or not really is a big decision. It changes the way you cook and hence it is a major thing to ponder upon.
A good start is to understand how the pressure cooker works and then look at how to use a pressure cooker. Many times these are the most important aspects that determine how to get things done.
History behind Pressure Cooking
The idea of cooking with pressure cooker was originally invented to ensure that food can be cooked consistently regardless of at what altitude you live.
At sea level the atmospheric pressure is higher than at higher altitudes. Hence, water boils at much higher temperatures at sea level.
This means that food that gets cooked properly at sea level turns out half cooked at higher places.
The pressure cooker was originally conceived to create a constant pressure regardless of the geographical location.
How does Pressure cooker work?
The logic of the pressure cooker is to raise the pressure within the cooker to a level where water boils at higher temperature.
At this higher temperature, the food gets cooked faster and better. With the enclosed assembly, you could take the cooker almost anywhere and it would deliver consistent performance.
Most modern pressure cookers can build a pressure of around 15 psi. At this pressure, the boiling point of water rises to 1200C and this means that the steam temperature rises to these high levels. This super-hot steam penetrates the food and cooks its rapidly and thoroughly.
Cooking with Pressure Cooker Diagram
How to use Pressure cooker?
Every pressure cooker has slightly different mode of operation. The best place to get a good understanding of how it works is to refer to the user manual.
The most important information you must find in your manual are:
How much food and water you can add to your pressure cooker
How to close/lock the lid
How to release the pressure safely
Despite all the safety features as a responsible cook, you must know about the basic safety steps you must take while operating these high pressure vessels. Given below are some of the most important things that you need to take care of while cooking with pressure cooker:
Steam Vent: This is the vent used to release the steam. This comes into prominence if the pressure build up inside the cooker is too high or when you are deliberately releasing the steam to open the cooker faster. Regardless of when the steam escapes you need to ensure that it does not burn you. So always place the cooker in a position so that the vent is facing away from you.
Opening Lid: It is safe to open the lid once the pressure inside has fallen to normal levels. Normal pressure does not mean no steam, it just means the steam is not built up, so it will not explode. However there will still be steam and you do not want that to hit your face. So when you open the lid, position it away from your face.
Removing Lid: Most cookers have cool handles so you never realise how hot the cooker lid really is. So it is important that you always use mitts or some thick cloth to handle the lid. It is very easy to forget that the lid I hot and grab the metal with bare hands causing burns.
Cooker with Pressure: If the cooker still has some pressure it is not smart to force open it. The modern cookers have pressure indicators that will let you know if it is safe to open the cooker or not. If your cooker does not have the indicator, try to release steam from the vent. If you see a lot of force in the steam being released, wait till it reduces to zero and then open the cooker. While there is injury risk associated with this, you could also damage the cooker.
Here are two other interesting tips that will help your cooking with pressure cooker effectively:
Pressure cookers were invented to make cooking independent of geographical altitude. However, altitudes do affect the cooking times. So beyond 2000 feet you can use a rule of thumb to increase the standard cooking time by 5% for every 1000 feet increase in altitude.
When you are cooking with pressure cooker, many times due to think base the cooker takes a very long time to depressurise. This is just wasting your time and also overcooking the food inside. The best solution in such cases is to press the steam release vent or the pressure indicator stem till all the steam inside gets released. Once the indicator settles at the lowest level, you can open the lid safely.
Watch the video "cooking with pressure cooker"
Procedure of cooking with pressure cooker
Read the cooker user manual to understand the various parts and how they fit into one other.
If you are not certain, do a dry run without anything in the cooker. Once you are confident with how it works, you can start cooking.
Always ensure that you have sufficient water in the steamer section, under no circumstance do you want that to run out of water.
Look at the vent and other safety pressure release mechanisms and make sure that they are all clear.
Every cooker has a series of sealing mechanisms that ensure that steam does not escape from the enclosed unit. When you close the cooker and place it on heat you do not want steam to run out.
Remember though that most cookers will have some steam escaping initially, this is natural and you need not bother with that. But if that does not stop after sometime, then there is leakage and you need to take some corrective action.
If you are cooking vegetables, then use baskets of trays to hold them above the water. You do not want water to stay around the vegetables as excess heat can disintegrate the vegetables.
Follow the instructions in the manual to find out the exact cooking times for various food types. You must shut down the cooker at the right time.
Always make sure that the cooker has fully cooled down before trying to open it. The modern cookers have a pressure indicator to help in that decision.
It is a good idea to brown meats before pressure cooking them. This adds to their appearance and flavor.
A good tip while cooking with pressure cooker is to add some of the herbs to the food in the pressure cooker itself. This will ensure that the flavours penetrate deep inside the foods given it a very good taste at meal time.
Safety Tips on Cooking with Pressure Cooker
Below are some tips in handling the pressure cooker to ensure the safety of the person using it.
Dont put too much food into the pressure cooker, because the appliance will throw away pressure that can lead to explosion and burst up of foods in the kitchen. The limit is only up to two-thirds full of the pressure cooker. Never put the food beyond that level.
Always refer to the instruction manual for cooking directions if you are in doubt or not sure of the cooking procedure. This is to avoid any inevitable accidents that may incur damages.
If vegetables of different varieties are to be put into the pressure cooker, it is wise that youll chop them into similar sizes for them to be cooked evenly. The same procedure applies for roasting other vegetables like the potatoes. Distribute them evenly on the baking sheet and make sure that they are cut of the same size.
Make sure that foods are no longer frozen and are thawed before you put them into the pressure cooker. This will ensure an even cooking and a more accurate result.
Always check the steam vents and gaskets before each use of the pressure cooker
Common Problems Encountered in Cooking With Pressure Cooker
Mastering the functions of your pressure cooker is very essential. Pressure cookers work differently compared with the conventional stove tops.
For instance, electric burners commonly keep the heat longer compared to gas burners. Thus, when using a pressure cooker over the electric burner, there is a need to lift the pressure cooker away from heat, after the burner setting had been adjusted.
Also, keep in mind that pressure cookers are similar to any pan that can be found in your kitchen.
There will always be less probability of burning and sticking of food at the bottom of thicker pans.
If burning has been a problem in your pressure cooker, try out these solutions:
The next time you do the recipe, add more liquid into your pressure cooker.
Before locking the lid, always heat or bring to boil the liquids on it.
Cause the pressure cooker up to the pressure on presence of a lower heat.
Utilize the heat diffuser.
There will be instances that the pressure cooker will reach the pressure at the faster time and sometimes, it will take more than twenty minutes to attain it.
Bear in mind that when cooking a large ratio of food to liquid, there will be a delay in the time it will take the cooker to attain the needed pressure.
Same principle applies to if your food was cold and you start the cooking process.
While cooking with the pressure cooker, you will distinguish that the cooker had attain the desired pressure by the sound it produces.
If an instance that the pressure cooker does not come to its desired pressure, some of the possible causes maybe:
The gasket is not permitting a tight seal. Coating the gasket with vegetable oil may solve the problem. If the problem still persists, there is a need to replace the gasket.
There is no proper lock of the lid in its place.
The pressure regulator was clogged. Use the quick release method to remove the lid and consult the manufacturers guide for the direction in cleaning the gasket.
There is no enough liquid in the pressure cooker. Test the pressure by the quick release method for you to remove the lid. Try adding liquid, lock the lid into its proper place and then try again.
The pressure cooker may be overloaded with too much food. Try removing some of the food and operate again.
When cooking with pressure cooker, you'll notice some foam or liquid was spilling from the vent, take away the cooker from the heat and wait for the pressure to be released naturally.
The problem may occur if the pressure cooker is made full beyond its capacity. Remove some of the ingredients before trying again.
Another potential cause of this problem is that you are cooking a food that forms bubbles or foams. Put additional oil to the ingredients or cleaning the area surrounding the pressure cooker can relieve the problem.